Plenty of research shows that in some cases, the deadlift exercise can alleviate chronic low back pain.

Low back pain (LBP) is a prevalent issue affecting a significant portion of the global population.

Many individuals, seeking relief from this discomfort, turn to various forms of exercise.

One exercise that has gained attention for its potential in reducing low back pain is the deadlift.

Anatomy and Mechanics of the Deadlift

To understand the potential impact of deadlifts on low back pain, it’s important to grasp the biomechanics of the exercise.

The deadlift primarily targets the posterior chain, engaging muscles such as the erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, and lats.

Proper form and technique during deadlifts ensure a balanced distribution of load across these muscles, potentially contributing to improved spinal stability.

The deadlift.

Deadlifts and Lumbar Stability

Several studies have investigated the relationship between deadlifts and lumbar stability.

A study by McGill et al. (2002) found that deadlifts, when performed with proper form, activate the erector spinae and other core muscles, contributing to enhanced lumbar stability.

This increased stability may play a crucial role in reducing low back pain by promoting better spine support during daily activities.

Deadlifts As a Functional Exercise

One reason deadlifts are often recommended for individuals with low back pain is their functional nature.

The deadlift mimics the mechanics of lifting objects from the ground, making it a practical exercise for strengthening the muscles involved in such movements.

A study by Cholewicki et al. (1991) demonstrated that deadlifts activate the lumbar and hip extensor muscles more effectively than other exercises, emphasizing their functional significance.

Effects of Deadlifts on Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances are often implicated in the development of low back pain.

Strengthening the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine can help address these imbalances.

A study by Gullett et al. (2009) compared muscle activation during deadlifts and other exercises, concluding that deadlifts induce a more balanced activation of the lumbar extensors, suggesting their potential role in addressing muscle imbalances that may contribute to low back pain.

Deadlifts and Spinal Flexion

Concerns about lumbar flexion during deadlifts have led to debates about their safety.

However, research indicates that when performed correctly, deadlifts do not necessarily involve excessive lumbar flexion.

A systematic review by Swinton et al. (2012) emphasized the importance of maintaining a neutral spine during deadlifts to mitigate any potential risk of injury.

Individualized Approaches

It’s essential to recognize that individual differences play a significant role in the impact of deadlifts on low back pain.

Factors such as pre-existing conditions, fitness level, and adherence to proper technique can influence the outcomes.

A personalized approach, considering individual needs and limitations, should guide the incorporation of deadlifts into a rehabilitation or exercise program.


The existing body of research suggests that deadlifts, when performed with proper form and technique, can contribute to reducing low back pain.

The exercise promotes lumbar stability, addresses muscle imbalances, and serves as a functional movement pattern.

However, it’s crucial to emphasize individualized approaches, considering factors such as fitness level and existing conditions.

Incorporating deadlifts into a comprehensive exercise program may offer a multifaceted approach to managing and preventing low back pain.

As with any exercise regimen, consulting with a healthcare professional or fitness expert is advised before initiating a deadlift program, especially for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.